The alleyways of Gotham city are a second home to Jason, more familiar than even the gilded halls of Wayne Manor ever had been; luckily, even with his head spinning in any and every direction, he manages not to get turned around on his way to Leslie's clinic.

He tries to move fast, stay in the shadows – the clinic isn't exactly in the most trustworthy neighborhood, and Batman could still be lurking nearby after the explosion – but his neck is sliced open and still bleeding quite freely despite the hand pressing against it as hard as he dared, almost afraid he's start choking himself if he tightened his grip anymore.

The flow of blood hasn't slowed, and the pain lancing through his entire neck has only grown deeper since it was inflicted; every mouthful of blood coughed out sends a fresh agony afire in his windpipe, and fuck, something is wrong.

He doesn't know what, doesn't know how, but he can feel it; something is Very, Very Wrong with his throat – aside from the massive slice across the middle – and his increasingly ragged breaths and slowing steps are not helping whatsoever.

Had the batarang hit something important? Just the possibility sends his head spinning with fury again – he could've died, he could have died again, what the fuck kind of father does that WHY WOULD YOU SAVE HIM AND NOT ME YOU USELESS PIECE OF-

Another cough, this one so hard it dislodges his hand from the injury and he's left to flail weakly as a new torment comes to light as the blood doesn't stop coming up.

Fuck, fuck, could it have nicked an artery when it whizzed past?

Shit, no, it couldn't have been the jugular – he would be very, very dead already if it had – but it definitely cut something major, and, okay, he might be woozy and royally pissed off, but he's still kind of freaking out right now because he has no fucking idea what's wrong with his neck, and-

And Mother of God, the Universe is finally giving him a goddamn break, because stumbling around a corner brings him right to the clinic, and there are lights on, and shit, he's never had this much luck in his life; he sincerely expects karma to come around and smack him with another terrible situation just to be coy, but nothing of the sort happens as he shakily makes his way to the side door instead of the front to avoid the gazes of the vultures that are surely out tonight.

He leans heavily on the wall beside the entrance, shaking his head to regain his bearings – he's so close to a win, he can't afford to pass out now – before lifting a shaking hand to pound on the door.

Well, 'pound' is a strong word; to be honest, he can barely muster the strength to make his tapping audible, and with the thunder booming overhead hearing it must be impossible.

But maybe the Universe really was giving him a break; maybe Leslie had tapped into her motherly instincts for a brief moment. Maybe he is lucky, because seconds after his hand falls from the door it swings open, revealing a familiar figure.

She's almost exactly the same as he remembers – long white coat, large round glasses, hair in a messy bun; it's a little grayer than it was last time, but hell, who is he to judge? – and for a moment all he can do is gape dumbly at her.

She catches sight of him moments later, after her eyes have adjusted to the darkness, and when they widen comically he knows he must be a terrible sight; not many things can ruffle the unflappable vigilante doctor of Gotham.

"What's up, Doc?" he tries for a non-menacing, cheeky grin – she always did love his Bugs Bunny impressions when he was a kid – but considering he's soaked to the bone, still in uniform and dripping red everywhere, he doesn't think he quite manages to pull it off.

The yelp that exits her mouth is a lot louder than he'd expected – his own voice had been so quiet he hadn't even heard it – and her face is so suddenly pale and frightened he can't hide a wince in time. She draws back a step, taking in his bloodied, disheveled appearance – and there's no way she couldn't have heard of the explosion by now, her radio is always turned to the news in case of incoming patients – and looks about two seconds away from slamming the door in his face and calling the police.

But then she pauses, seems to realize the blood seeping into his jacket and dripping down his chin is actually his own instead of some hapless victims', eyes trailing over him again swiftly before locking on his face, and, yeah, Jason isn't afraid to admit he teared up a little.

He's taller, broader, stronger, and not nearly as happy and carefree as he had been the last time he'd seen her, but even with the new lines on his face and the white streak in his hair, she'd seen him far too many times in a mask to be fooled by one now.

"Jason?!" her exclamation is shrill and breathless and totally, completely in shock; little dead boys popping out of the grave to visit after they've just committed a huge crime will do that to you.

"Hey Les," he tries to croak in relief, but all that comes out is a breath and a new gob of blood, which slides sluggishly down his chin to splatter lazily on his already stained jacket, and he doesn't understand – why was there no noise? Maybe the explosion had done something funny to his ears; he can hear Leslie's gasp of mingled shock and horror just fine – but then his knees give out and it's all he can do to stop himself from toppling to the ground face first again.

"Jason!" This time, even though he can feel her hands pushing into his shoulders to try and keep him upright and can see her face in between the black edges around his vision, he can barely hear her shouting; it's like she's at the other end of a tunnel, yelling from far away.

A hand appears atop his own, pressing it more firmly against his throat, and he wants to gurgle a protest – everything else is numb, but that still hurts – but he just blinks heavily at her distorted face.

"Stay awake, Jason, come on, don't black out on me-!"

He doesn't, somehow.

He's not sure how they get inside – his limbs are heavy and numb; he doesn't think his legs could support him if they tried – but eventually rain water stops pattering against his face, and his nose is smooshed into Leslie's shoulder as she tried to lever him onto a cot.

"Ya smell nice," he thinks loopily, and he might've said it out loud; he can't tell about that anymore, not with everything so quiet now, so distant it all might as well be miles away.

He thinks he hears a voice urging him to do something – anything – but he's so tired… it's finally warm here, he doesn't…

He doesn't think he can stay awake. So he doesn't.


A/N: HELLO. I am back again, because this AU is deliciously painful and I love carving my heart out writing it. There should be one more part to this particular story, and then… we'll see where it goes from there, shall we?
~Persephone